Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Spiritual Awakening

          My initial thought about my method of spiritual stocktaking had been to trawl through my experiences to see what they might reveal about the present state of my spiritual journey. It quickly became obvious that there was too much information available, and that what I already had was being continually added to. I have, therefore, decided on a change of tack using a pre-existing spiritual format as a possible blueprint for my journey. All that is required is that the experiences broadly fit the format, or in other words that the empirical facts fit the theory, so to speak. The format that I have chosen is the life lived by the mythological Christ in and through the historical Jesus of Nazareth, as it is recorded in the synoptic gospels and the gospel of St. John. If I am successful in fitting facts to theory, then I will be able to see, with some confidence, where I am heading.
          If one cares to read the accounts of the life of Jesus, it quickly becomes obvious that certain events stand out very clearly. The first is his birth, the second his baptism followed by the temptations in the desert, and so on. Similarly, the various initiatory events celebrated in the Church also stand out very clearly. Yet in reality the spiritual life, at least in my experience, is rather different from this clearly cut format. There is no rigidity in the spiritual life that demands every part in the puzzle be in place in a specific order, although it must be said that there is a tendency to pass through major events in a particular order. Obviously, one doesn't get anywhere before a psycho-spiritual nativity, or spiritual awakening is experienced. But there are, even with this birthing, a number of preparatory steps that are required. The living of the spiritual life is rather like experiencing the flow of a river through a delta. Sometimes the river flows this way, sometimes that way; sometimes it seems to flow sluggishly, sometimes with great speed; sometimes it seems to swirl around in eddies getting nowhere. In the end, of course, the river will reach the open waters of the sea.
          It is sometimes assumed that an initiation or testing lifts one up to a new level. To achieve that new level seems to require the services of a spiritual mentor, or guru, who will inform one when the time has come to take this rite of passage. But this assumption is incorrect. Now I am not saying that help cannot be obtained from other people. To ignore the wisdom of others would be prideful in the extreme. What I do say is that a public initiation, which seems to me to be little more than theatre, is not necessary for progress to be made. In fact, like any other test or examination satisfactorily passed, all that occurs is a confirmation that a stage or standard has already been attained. That stage can only have been reached through internal work having been successfully undertaken. Progress cannot be achieved on the words or the backs of others. It can only come through one's own experiential awakening. Even the initial spiritual awakening must rely on one's own, inner experiences. As it was pointed out to me, during a pathworking on the journeyings of Jesus in Galilee, that Way was his:  it was not my Way. If I am to succeed in my spiritual task of growing ever deeper into truth and awareness, I cannot slavishly follow another. I cannot take on someone else's spiritual experience as if it were my own. I must travel my own journey. For this there is no substitute.  
          If I were asked to identify one common cause of a need for spiritual awakening, I would name psycho-spiritual trauma. That trauma may be induced, for example, by the physical loss or suffering of someone close to us, or severe injury perhaps. There can be all sorts of reasons, but it is at the level of the spirit that the need for change is felt. It is at that level, when faced with and enduring a traumatic period in our lives, that we come face to face with our essential powerlessness over life's events. If we have the time to attempt to reverse that situation and fail to understand and accept our powerlessness, the damage to the spirit progresses at an ever-increasing rate.
          There came a moment, many years ago now, when I had to acknowledge my own powerlessness over the events that were occurring in my life. Not only that, I had to see how my insane - it could hardly be described as anything less than that - losing battle against that state of powerlessness was destroying my inner life. At the end of that, what seemed at the time to be a gruelling and unnecessarily protracted, period of self examination, I was forced by my own reasoning to acknowledge the truth of my very human condition. Then came an unforgettable and overwhelming sense of release.
          At the time, of course, I did not see my changed state of awareness as a new birthing into the spirit, imaged much later as a divine nativity. I saw that change simply as my first step upwards out of the abyss into which I had fallen. And I could blame no-one but myself. I had also taken a first step towards taking appropriate responsibility for my actions, and towards dealing with the whole question of blame and guilt. That, however, was a task which still lay in the future.
          Admittedly, I have rather skimmed over the surface of the experience of my own spiritual awakening. It might have been the first of such experiences, but it was not to be the last. I doubt that more detail here would helped very much, so I will pass on to consider the next step on the mythological journey to wholeness, the possible passage through the experience of baptism.

                                                                  *****

And now, finally, and against my usual style of blogging, may I add these three words:-

                           JE  SUIS  CHARLIE

12 comments:

  1. Hi Tom
    What comes to mind from your thoughtful and uplifting post is what conceivably happened in the very early roots of the church. That is what I posit might have evolved from the spiritual awakenings, from what little we know of it in the first centuries, where we know there was a very wide range of beliefs and practices, of which many were to become regarded as heretical. But maybe that diversity, in the main, was simply the expression of various spiritual awakenings from those traumatic times, which were to grow very strongly in a spirit of freedom representative of simply uplifting experiences and goodness evident within respective communities. It is possibly inconceivable for us to contemplate the full extent of the terror of the destruction of the temple and so forth ,,,,,the feeling of utter desolation ,,,,,,,,
    Maybe as people today raise pens and signs to pay their vigil tribute to the victims of the shooting by the gunmen it is not too similar to the responses of the first Christians to the imposition of Roman cruelty that eventually helped topple it from power. But then the church, closely aligned to the state, became so engrossed in its owns power and authority it in turn brutally attacks any legitimate diversity to brand it as heresy.
    It seems to me at the root of all of this is a propensity to “tribalism” which brings with it the risk of intolerance.
    Best wishes

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    1. Hi Lindsay; Thank you for this. I must confess that the events of yesterday have rocked me badly. In part this is because the events in Paris are beyond my ability to understand. I feel stunned! There is also the feeling that although we are not French citizens, that cannot be, nevertheless this is our country; this is where we live. And Paris? Well that's something else.

      Having said that, I do find your comment greatly supportive. Against the backdrop of history, Paris and its people will not stand alone.

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  2. Condolences on the awful events in Paris. We are all with you.

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    1. Bruce; Our thanks. There's so little that I can say.

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  3. Tom, It's not that I can't imagine a society in fear of free expression but that I can imagine it that I must join the chorus, JE SUIS CHARLIE.

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    1. Geo; Thank you. That particular chorus is swelling worldwide.

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  4. "I had also taken a first step towards taking appropriate responsibility for my actions,". The nub of the matter I think, Tom.
    As to the terrible happenings in Paris - I believe that increasingly in the West we shall profess , "Nous sommes Charlie".
    The perpetrators of such violence merely advertise their insecurity in their beliefs. The fractious child throwing its toys from the pram because "our" way is not to become "his" way. Trouble is those fractious children now have Kalashnikovs and exposives to play with.

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    1. Avus; How true. I shudder to think what they may get up to when they grow into teenagers. We are still yet a young species.

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  5. Sometimes I wonder if I'm currently in one of those intertidal parts of the river where nothing changes until the next storm comes along to sweep my drop of water out to sea. Meanwhile I meditate as always and say my prayers of thankfulness morning and night.

    As for the other thing I'm sad but not shocked. There is too much violence done that goes unremarked.

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    1. Hullo Susan: I must say that I was shocked, even after hearing what members of Islamic State behave. I think it was the sheer merciless, cold-blooded, nature of the attack. What makes it worse in hindsight, from fresh reports coming from Paris, is that up to a couple of days previously, at least one of them was behaving as a normal, kind and friendly person.

      On the other matter, here's hoping the next surge of water comes soon and clears the channels.

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  6. Just waving a greeting from the other side of the pond. So sad and shocking these events in Paris, and in many places. Intolerance abounds.

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    1. Marja-Leena, Hi there! Agreed.

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